After a week of emotional and sometimes disturbing testimony, a detective’s story of being cussed out by a talking bird named Marty, brought laughter to the courtroom in the Philadelphia rape and kidnap trial of Christina Regusters.
A tip about the macaw parrot became the pivotal break in the investigation, leading to Reguster’s arrest one month after the five-year-old girl she’s accused of abducting and assaulting, was found alive shivering in a park.
Under cross-examination, Special Victims Unit Detective Daniel O’Malley recalled searching the home where Regusters lived and hearing Marty, a two-foot tall green, yellow and red parrot.
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"It's (the bird is) very loud. I don’t remember the words, but it was cursing us out. I imagine you could hear it throughout the neighborhood," said O'Malley.
Earlier this week, the victim's mother testified the little girl was told to be quiet after the kidnapping or the bird would peck her eyes out. Silent she stayed, naked under a bed for 19-hours, repeatedly sexually assaulted with a sharp object before being removed from the home with plastic bags on her feet.
O'Malley was assigned to the case in late January, 2013 -- two weeks after the Bryant Elementary School kindergartner was abducted from her daycare, where Regusters worked.
O'Malley testified that a tip call came in one day from a woman who said she overheard a family member speak of a bird associated with the crime. She told O'Malley that after some detective work of her own, she discovered two women were living with a bird in the 6200 block of Walton Street. At that time, news of the bird was not made public.
With that tip and some additional investigation, police acquired a search warrant for 6243 Walton Avenue where Regusters lived with three other people -- an aunt, cousin and the aunt's boyfriend. Investigators first searched the home on February 7 and during the second search a week later, the bird and other evidence were removed from the home and Regusters, along with two other members of the house were taken in for questioning. Regusters remains the sole person charged in the case.
Police focused their investigation on the Cobbs Creek neighborhood where the girl was abducted on Jan. 14, 2013 because the victim was eventually able to recall being told to throw away her coat and book bag in a nearby trash can in the 6200 block of Larchwood and that a grill and socks were located behind the abductor's home. During her captivity, she was kept under a bed, naked and blindfolded. According to prosecutors, the victim told police she heard a large talking bird and was told, "If you scream, that bird will peck your eyes out."
Marty is considered key evidence in the case.
"We had to put the bird in a foster home. We couldn't keep it at the special victim's unit," with other evidence, explained prosecutor Jessalyn Gillum.
The morning after her abduction, the girl was found shivering and smelling of feces in an Upper Darby playground where she'd been dumped in only a t-shirt. Injuries to her body were so severe, multiple surgeries, including a colostomy, were required.
Regusters maintains her innocence and turned down a deal that included 40 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Her attorney contends prosecutors have the wrong person, despite the introduction of DNA evidence on the T-shirt the child was wearing when she was found.
The victim and her mother both testified this week and when the prosecution rests, Regusters is expected to take the stand in her own defense.
Earlier in the day, juror number 14 was excused from the trial due to a family emergency. Court is in recess until after the Labor Day holiday.